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Nina In New York: The Polar Vortex Is A Sucker For A Tambourine

Pedestrians brave the cold in Midtown Manhattan   (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Pedestrians brave the cold in Midtown Manhattan (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

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A lighthearted look at news, events, culture and everyday life in New York. The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.
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By Nina Pajak

Oh, Polar Vortex (or whatever you are). Thank goodness you’re back. What would we talk about without you? Not being colder than we’ve ever been before in our lives, not the hilarious videos of idiots scalding themselves while trying to freeze boiling water outside, not avoiding frostbite while walking the dog, not all the cool composite words signaling the subzero end of days (ie. Coldmageddon), and various combinations of the names of our cities with the names of very, very cold parts of the world (ie. Chiberia = Chicago + Siberia). We’d be so comparatively not that cold and totally bored and we’d just be blathering about normal stuff like how much we hate winter but we wouldn’t even know the half of it. We wouldn’t. Even. Know.

Because everything that happens obviously happens specifically to me, I can’t help but feel like the polar vortex is following me . . . to baby music class. Yeah, that’s right. Babies take classes to learn music. Anyway, it feels like every time I have to go to this class, it’s on the very day the vortex comes swirling into town and engulfs the city in a maelstrom of wind and ice and general misery. This week, despite the bitter cold and risk of frostbite, I trudged along like a good little soldier. The last time this happened, though, I foolishly thought a city-wide mandate to stay home if leaving is not essential might be considered a reason to cancel class. Baby music class. A music class for babies. A voluntary activity for which privilege we pay handsomely. So, silly me, I called the organizer.

She answered in the groggy voice of someone who knew she could stay in bed as long as she liked. I could hear the smirk on the other end of the line when I asked.

“Not cancelled,” she chuckled. “Have fun. Bundle up!”

Bundle up yourself, baby music class lady. I briefly considered telling her we’d be skipping and scheduling a makeup, but something came over me. While every molecule in my body knew that taking a baby out in -9° weather to a stupid baby music class was totally inane and the very definition of non-essential, I knew then that I had to do it. This woman had issued me a challenge. She’d laughed at the mere suggestion that class ought not be held. What are we, pansies? We are mothers! We are in Queens! We do not hole up in our warm, cozy apartments when 45 minutes can be spent shaking maracas and walking around in very slow circles while awkwardly singing children’s songs to our babies, who couldn’t care less whether we’d ever left the living room! No! We do not, sir! We do . . . the opposite of that! This woman had called me a lazy wimp, not in so many words, and I would not let her be right.

At least, this is what I told myself as I battled the wind and struggled to keep my hood on my head on the way to class. This is what I told myself as I alternated closing each eye in order to prevent my contact lenses from cold-fusing to my eyeballs. I would not be made a fool. (I should take this opportunity to assure you that the baby was exceedingly well-bundled, shielded, and cozy in her stroller. She was, however, indignant at having to wear her hat.)

Once in class, it seemed to me that the other adults who’d made it that day all wore similar expressions of mild embarrassment, with the exception of one supremely unaware woman who insisted on singing at the top of her lungs despite not knowing any lyrics or melodies and being completely tone-deaf. It was as though we were all thinking the same thing: why did I come here today? Why did you come here today? And where was the rest of the group? It was becoming clear to us that there were other mothers and nannies who had chosen a different path that day.

Were we the fearsome warriors of baby class? Were we the most conscientious students? The undeterrable? The principled pupils who will traipse through hell frozen over in order to sing a rousing round of “I’ve Been Workin’ On the Railroad?” Or were we just those who were most eager to get out of the house and interact with other adult humans, no matter what it took? The ones who most anxiously needed someone else to provide entertainment to our tots and kill an hour of the day? We weren’t the A team of infant musicology education. We were the crack team of desperate housewives. And I was one of them.

I felt a little deflated at first. Sad, maybe. Disappointed.

Then I thought: eh. To hell with it. I embraced my desperation. I stand by it. I realize that if I felt differently, I’d be much, much crazier. It’s best for both of us if we seek out socialization and a range of activities, lest we drive each other totally mad. I did what I had to, and I’d do it again. And then I did, this week! And it was really, really cold. And I’d say I’d do it again—again—but I really feel now that I should probably specify that while it remains true, I’d prefer not to. Go away, polar vortex. Go on, scat. Scram. Beat it. Quit following me. This is hard enough without you.

Nina Pajak is a writer living with her husband, daughter and dog in Queens. Connect with Nina on Twitter at @NinaPajak!